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Witham-Friary (St. Mary)

WITHAM-FRIARY (St. Mary), a parish, and formerly an extra-episcopal liberty, in the union and hundred of Frome, E. division of Somerset, 5½ miles (S. S. W.) from Frome; containing, exclusively of Charterhouse-on-Mendip, which is in the hundred of Wintersoke, 581 inhabitants. Here was anciently a nunnery; and subsequently, in 1181, a monastery, said to be the first establishment of Carthusians in England, was founded by Henry II., in honour of the Blessed Virgin, St. John the Baptist, and All Saints. At the Dissolution it had a revenue of £227. 1. 8.; the ruins were taken down in 1764, and a farmhouse now stands upon the site. About 4000 acres of land here were formerly possessed by the Wyndham family, and a splendid residence was built by the Earl of Egremont, who died in 1763; the manor is now the property of the Duke of Somerset. The parish is intersected by the river Frome, and comprises altogether 5414 acres, of which 878 are arable, 3441 pasture, and upwards of 1000 woodland and plantations. The subsoil is in general a blue or whitish clay, under which are veins of soft limestone, which is burnt into lime; in some places are found layers of hard stone with shells imbedded in it, which is well adapted for building. The living is a perpetual curacy; net income, £106; patron, the Duke of Somerset. The church, supposed to have been either the chapel or another portion of the ancient friary, has an arched groined roof, with a semicircular chancel: being in a very dilapidated state, it was repaired and enlarged in 1828, when anew tower was built. A neat parsonage-house was erected near the village in 1830, and a capacious schoolroom has been built by the Duke of Somerset.

Transcribed from A Topographical Dictionary of England, by Samuel Lewis, seventh edition, published 1858.